My annual Feathercraft flyfishing/flytying catalog arrived in the mail yesterday and was the one piece in my stack that brought a smile to my face (more so than the tax notice). Coffee was made and other pressing things were set aside to make way for priorities.
Inside, a rainbow whirlwind (and you just don’t see one of those every day) of synth dubbing, pheasant tails and micro-pulsator rabbit strips awaited. The yearly catalog remains both inspirational and evocative, despite the fact that I rarely place orders anymore. My bins are full of fur and feathers and I rarely set up the vise these days. But I’d probably pay for a subscription to the catalog, if only to be transported back briefly each year to childhood evenings spent at a certain wooden desk at the top of the stairs in our house along Maine’s Moose River. The vise would creak as it tightened, half hitches would abound, moose hair would fall to the hardwood floor and hook-mounted oddities would emerge.
Since taking a step back from the rabid tying of yesteryear, I can come closer nowadays to seeing fly tying and fly tyers from the perspective of an outsider looking in. And no, obsession over feathers, hare’s masks and other dead animal parts isn’t normal. Feathercraft offers me “Easy Shrimp Eyes”, “Tri-lobal Antron Chenille”, and “Chernobyl Ant.” None of these are normal preoccupations for grown men. I can see all this now through the eyes of many a co-worker who had to listen to brief dissertations on how I burn the ends of a 3/4 inch long piece of monofilament fishing line before laying it crossways on the hook and lashing with 6/0 thread – to make eyes on my fake crayfish so the fish will bite it – of course!
It was an addiction and a disorder – I see this now and I feel I’m a step closer to recovery. I once fished exclusively with the fly rod but I’ve diversified beyond this as well and, having dealt with this mental health crisis, I now feel ready to reach out and help others who suffer from the affliction, like my friend Nigel.
The poor fellow – I’ve watched him spasmodically drift weighted bits of fur and feather 20 times or more through the same deep, discolored pool only a rod’s length away. Affecting the British accent he employs almost constantly, he tells me he’s “euro-nymphing.” I nod and affirm, “sure, sure you are, Nigel – and you’re so good at it! God made you special – just the way you are.”
And he just goes on that way, never thinking he could simply put a live minnow or gob of worm on that hook and soon fill his creel with trout that could be shown at home to prove how great an angler he really is before filling his belly. If I’m not mistaken, this affliction now appears in the psychologist’s DSM, and lashing dead animal parts to minute hooks is a sure-fire diagnostic device.
I took a break during writing today to flip a piece of lumber the workmen left last week just outside my apartment where I collected 4 dozen worms. I generally fish these days with a pole, sans reel, 8 feet of line, a float and bait. It’s my method and I love it. It’s definitely not crazy (sorry about the psychology jargon) either, like euro-nymphing.
But I’m hoping no-one saw me slam on the brakes out on the highway a few days ago to pull over, run back and grab a road-killed guinea fowl. I hacked off a wing, took it home, salted it and nailed it to a board to cure.
I’m in recovery. And none of us are perfect.